by Rob Lee, Linnton Neighborhood Association Secretary
After nearly a decade and a half of standing idle and forlorn, the Linnton Plywood Mill is finally being sold and developed. Linnton Water Credits LLC is buying the25 acre site, and Restorecap, an environmental restoration company, will oversee the landscape’s transformation into habitat for wild fish and other animals, as a Superfund mitigation project. Under the Superfund law, those who polluted the river – Potentially Responsible Parties, PRPs in Superfund parlance – not only clean up the river under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency they must also compensate the public for having damaged a natural resource. Mitigation sites are this payment.
“The Willamette River was once an incredibly rich river with wetlands and lakes and fish and wildlife,” said Erin Madden, environmental attorney for the Nez Perce Tribe, and chair of the Portland Harbor Natural Resource Trustee Council, which oversees these mitigation projects. “We can never bring that back. We can determine what damage has been caused by this contamination and how we make up for that.”
By next summer work will likely have begun, with Linnton Creek daylighted from east of the rail tracks and flowing into a lagoon with an island in its center, where juvenile salmon can rest on their journey to the ocean. The landscape will be given more natural contours, and covered with native plantings, with an eye toward not blocking people’s views of the river and the bridge. A refuge for wildlife, the area will be fenced in and not accessible to the public.
A walkway will run along the north side of the site, at NW 107th, to an overlook at the river. Portland Parks and Recreation is holding ongoing talks with Restorecap to make sure this fenced in overlook can be easily converted into a gateway into an existing greenway that runs above the river bank, and beach, to the edge of the Kinder Morgan facility to the north. Included in this conversation is the possibility of an eight-acre park along the river, although this prospect, while real, is vague and years away.
Click here for an example of Willamette River habitat restoration currently occurring at the Alder Creek Site on Sauvie Island.
Link to the permit application submitted to the City of Portland for the Linnton Plywood Mill site